Herring shuts down business that exploited servicemembers
Attorney General Mark Herring led a coalition of four states to shut down a deceptive organization that exploited goodwill towards those in the military and misused funds that were supposed to benefit servicemembers serving overseas.
The multistate settlement involves Hearts 2 Heroes Inc., a for-profit company doing business as Active Duty Support Services Inc., which made door-to-door sales of “care packages” ostensibly to be sent to service members overseas. Last summer, Herring filed suit against Hearts 2 Heroes alleging that the company violated the Virginia Consumer Protection Act and Virginia’s Solicitation of Contributions law by misrepresenting the nature of the business and the care packages purchased, and by misusing donated funds.
The lawsuit was announced as part of “Operation Donate with Honor”, a nationwide sweep to crackdown on fraudulent charities that exploit the name of America’s veteran community to solicit donations. As part of the settlement, the business has been shut down and the owners will be permanently banned from engaging in charitable solicitations or working for a charitable organization.
“Organizations who prey on the kindness of Virginians and deceptively solicit donations from folks who are hoping to help veterans or servicemembers are shameful and should be held accountable,” said Herring. “I hope this settlement sends a strong message to other organizations that may have similar deceptive operations that they must follow through with their promises and be honest about where their money is going.”
The complaint, filed in Henrico County Circuit Court, alleges that Hearts 2 Heroes violated the Virginia Consumer Protection Act and Virginia’s Solicitation of Contributions law by:
- leading prospective donors to believe that Hearts 2 Heroes is a charity, when it is not, and that donations made are tax deductible, when they are not;
- delivering care packages, if delivered at all, to military bases in the United States, not overseas as represented;
- representing to consumers that staff were veterans or volunteers when in fact those staff were not veterans or volunteers; and
- employing staff who would “skim” cash donations for personal use.
The settlement reached by Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia includes injunctive relief in the form of a ban of the two owners from engaging in charitable solicitations or working for a charitable organization, as well as the dissolution of the business. The settlement also includes a $286,959.95 restitution judgment against the now-defunct company, which will be suspended but enforced if the other terms of the settlement are not complied with. Additionally the states will receive a total of $10,000.
The settlement is in the form of a Consent Judgment that has been filed with the Henrico County Circuit Court for approval. The Commonwealth is represented in this matter by Assistant Attorney General Stephen John Sovinsky.